I predicted my last post would stir up a storm, and it did. I linked to my latest book riff, in which I rough my way through half the chapter in my book in which I’m going to refute the myth of classical music superiority.
And now I hope those who think I’m beating a dead horse will, first, read the comments on the post, and see that the horse — the belief in classical music’s superiority, especially over pop — is alive and foaming at the mouth. Such anger, from people who want to put pop down! Such disdain!
And, I must say, such ignorance (just as I said in the riff) of pop music from most of the people who attack it.
But let it go. This is the first of three posts, in which I’ll show some of the consequences, some of the bad things that happen because of the belief — sometimes functioning overtly, sometimes covertly — that classical music is superior.
This first entry comes from Catherine Shefski, a piano teacher whom I’ve quoted before. The link takes you to her blog, which is well worth reading. Two posts that ought to get wide exposure: “If I were a 16 year old piano student…” (things she’d want her piano teacher to ask her to do), and “Going out to a concert” (about what would make her drive somewhere to hear music).
What I’m going to quote here comes not from Cathy’s blog, but from an email she sent me, which I’m quoting with her permission. It was her reaction to my book riff:
This past weekend I presented a clinic at the PA Music Teachers Conference in Bedford Springs, PA. (see my most recent blog post here). I spoke about how piano teachers can keep piano lessons relevant for the digital generation. My ideas were a little out there…and granted, a little much for most of the teachers to swallow but a few of there were very supportive. However, one teacher that I know personally, raised her hand and said she grouped piano teachers into categories. It was something like 1) The Saks 5th Avenue teacher, 2) the Talbots teacher and 3) the Walmart teacher. Apparently, my “method” places me in the latter category.
But I came home after the conference and attended my son’s performance at a local art gallery for one of the Drawing Socials held every weekend here in Scranton. (here’s one artist’s impression of a typical Drawing Social) and heard three bands (12 boys ages 18-20) playing all original music. In fact three of them are here in my office on the other computer listening to their music on Audacity and picking the best tracks. They are so enthusiastic, love music, compose, improvise, buy and sell lots of different instruments, are always on the piano, etc. And then I wonder how I can generate the same enthusiasm for music in my own teaching studio
If allowing the kids to play “popular” music in a casual setting, and not insisting that they memorize everything, and foregoing piano competitions, and teaching them how to read a fake-book makes me a Walmart teacher…then so be it.
By taking a superior attitude (to say the least) to pop music, the classical music world cuts itself off from so much energy, so much imagination, and so much delight.